Recent studies have demonstrated that a higher protein, low carbohydrate diet promotes superior results for fat loss, improvements in blood lipid parameters and increased thermogenesis in individuals with obesity and insulin resistance and may help to resolve the metabolic blocks that can prevent fat loss.
The Ketogenic diet involves significantly reducing carbohydrate intake while increasing protein to the levels necessary to maintain muscle mass with the calorie ratios approximating 50% protein, 20% low glycemic index carbohydrates and 30% therapeutic fats.
The general dietary guidelines involve avoidance of high carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes, rice etc. as well as all simple carbohydrates such as sugar, honey and fruit juice.
Protein is included in every meal as this helps to reduce appetite, regulate blood glucose levels and preserve lean muscle mass. Examples of protein foods are fish, chicken, turkey, meat, eggs, cheese, tofu and tempeh. Protein drinks such as whey protein isolate or soy protein may be utilized. Soy protein is especially beneficial as it has been shown to stimulate thyroid hormone production, reduce fat levels and promote fat loss, due to the phytoestrogens and essential fatty acids it contains.
Adequate fat intake is also essential as this enhances fat burning by the body while reducing synthesis of fatty acids in the body which both promote fat loss. Optimal sources of fats are flaxseed oil, fish oil, avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
To provide balanced nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and to promote detoxification it is also essential to consume 3-4 cups of low carbohydrate vegetables or salad daily with one optional serve of fresh fruit daily.
When beginning a Ketogenic diet program some discomfort may be experienced such as headaches, irritability, fatigue and hunger for the first 2-7 days, however thereafter it is very easy to adhere to the diet and it actually reduces appetite, carbohydrate cravings and increases energy levels.
A typical day on the Ketogenic diet may be as follows:
Scrambled eggs or tofu with parsley, scallions, spinach and tomato OR
Protein powder blended with fresh or frozen berries
Salad with tuna/salmon/eggs/cottage cheese
Fish, chicken, turkey, tofu or meat with steamed or stir fried low carbohydrate vegetables
Snacks: (2-3 daily)
Protein drink OR
Hard boiled egg OR
Handful of nuts or seeds
The Ketogenic diet produces very good results when followed consistently. Long term success is more likely if a holistic attitude is adopted that addresses diet, exercise, nutritional supplements and psychological factors as well as any specific health challenges that are unique to the individual.
When the ideal body fat percentage is achieved the diet may be gradually adjusted to include more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, starchy vegetables and fruit while as much as possible avoiding all other simple carbohydrates such as sugar, honey and refined flours. Simultaneously it is essential to ensure that protein is included in every meal.
This more relaxed type of dietary approach can be maintained indefinitely in conjunction with a regular exercise program to ensure that body weight and composition remains stable.
- Mizpah Matus is a nutritionist who specializes in the raw food diet.